Check out photography from Castine, Maine…
Snoqualmie Falls, just off I-90 thirty miles east of Seattle, is one of the most popular tourist stops—and probably the most famous waterfall—in all of Washington State. Some 1.5 million visitors a year check out the landmark cascade as it falls off a wide ledge just below the stately Salish Lodge and plunges 268 feet into a large punchbowl gorge below. Beyond scenic views, Snoqualmie Falls also produces 54 megawatts of electricity for Seattle and environs, making it one of the most practical tourist attractions around.
Hiking time: 10 minutes/1 hour
Distance: 0.4 mile to upper viewing platforms, out and back; or 2 miles adding in trip down to viewing platform across from the bottom of the falls, out and back
Finding the trailhead: Take I-90 East to exit 25 and turn left (north) at the end of the exit ramp onto WA 18 (SE Snoqualmie Parkway), which goes north and then winds around to the east. In 3.7 miles, turn left (north) onto Railroad Ave. SE (WA 202), and look for the signed turn-off to the right (east) for the Snoqualmie Falls parking lot (GPS: N47 32.564′ / W121 50.141′) in less than a mile. Park and then cross over WA 202 on the covered footbridge to Snoqualmie Falls Park adjacent to the Salish Lodge.
Park in the free visitor parking lot on the east side of WA 202 across from the Salish Lodge and then walk (west) over the covered footbridge to Snoqualmie Falls Park. Head straight down to the fenced overlook of Snoqualmie Falls. With the Salish Lodge immediately to your left, enjoy this closest view you will get to the top of the falls, and then walk right (north) along the railing and down some concrete stairs for different perspectives on the thundering cataract. Within a tenth of a mile, reach a platform with a direct view across to Snoqualmie Falls.
Get out your camera and snap a few shots, then continue on down to a second overlook 300 feet further down the paved walkway. If you’re lucky and the conditions are right, you may see a rainbow somewhere near the falls. If the short walk to these upper overlooks is all you need, retrace your steps and head back to the car.
But if you would like to get more exercise, follow the path from the second upper overlook as it loops back east through Snoqualmie Falls Park’s Centennial Garden—the site of many wedding ceremonies during the summer months—to a marked trailhead pointing the way down to the Snoqualmie River and an entirely different view of the falls from the bottom. Follow this steep, wide dirt trail for a half mile down into the gorge below. Enjoy the temperate rain-forest scenery—including healthy populations of iconic Pacific Northwest plants like salal, sword fern, big-leaf maples and old-growth Douglas firs—on the way down.
Pass under some power lines transporting electricity from the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Project (see sidebar). Keep descending to where the trail bottoms out at the junction with a spur path leading right (north) to a lower parking lot, but follow the trail left (south) toward the lower overlook. In another tenth of a mile, continue onto a boardwalk bridge that cuts between Powerhouse #2 (built in 1910 and still in operation today) and its big green penstocks uphill to the left (east).
Follow the trail/boardwalk south, passing an overlook of the Snoqualmie River and then within another tenth of a mile, the terminus of the “River View” trail at a wooden platform overlook with a direct view of the base of Snoqualmie Falls. A sign on a chain-link fence with a locked gate warns hikers not to proceed beyond the overlook—although plenty of people seem to ignore this message and climb over anyway to splash around in the river and get closer to the base of the iconic waterfall.
Spend 5 minutes or 5 hours enjoying the dynamic riparian environment before you, then turn around and retrace your steps back up (!) to the upper falls viewpoints and the parking lot.
Roddy Scheer is the editor of EarthTalk.org and author of the recently released Hiking Waterfalls in Washington: A Guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes.
The articles archive is now online…
Check out my recently published article in Northwest Travel Magazine on whale watching in the San Juans with my daughter…
The turquoise waters off Fiji’s Turtle Island are warm and teeming with fish. A reef extends from the end of Long Beach a few hundred yards off shore. One of the staffers took me and another guest around there in a skiff and instructed us to snorkel along the reef. We strapped on our flippers and splashed into the water, put our masks down and our snorkels up, and let the wild undersea rumpus begin…
Video was shot “hand-held” with GoPro Hero camera in underwater housing as well as with an iPhone 4s in a LifeProof case. To see still photos from Turtle Island, check out www.roddyscheer.com.
In February I made the long journey to Turtle Island, a 500 acre resort in the South Pacific 50 miles offshore from “mainland” Fiji in the remote and undeveloped Yasawa Islands. Look for a forthcoming article about my trip and the resort in E/The Environmental Magazine. In the meantime, check out some of my snaps…